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To New Horizons

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To New Horizons

Published 1940

Definitive document of pre-World War II futuristic utopian thinking, as envisioned by General Motors. Documents the "Futurama" exhibit in GM's "Highways and Horizons" pavilion at the World's Fair, which looks ahead to the "wonder world of 1960."

Run time 22:59
Producer Handy (Jam) Organization
Sponsor General Motors Corporation, Department of Public Relations
Audio/Visual Sd, C


Ken Smith sez: This film was put together by General Motors to trumpet their "Highways and Horizons" exhibit (which included the Futurama) at the 1939-40 New York World's Fair. It opens in b&w, as a wistful, utopian narrator explains how Americans are always striving for "new horizons," and "new ways of doing things." Then the film turns color, and we are taken into the G.M. pavilion, where we slowly pan over "the wonder world of 1960" -- an immense, miniature diorama designed by Norman Bel Geddes. An eerie organ-of-the-future plays as the narrator shows us an autocentric world -- complete with 100 mph freeways and city traffic systems "designed to bypass undesirable slum areas." "Does it seem strange? Unbelievable?" the narrator asks, as we look at a world that is unbelievable almost 35 years after it was supposed to exist. "We are all interested in the future, for that is where we will spend the rest of our lives!" An evocation of an abundant future and a unique little piece of film history.

¥ 20:34:28:18- 20:34:51:00
Series of driving POV shots. We move forward on various paths and roads starting with a grassy path, dissolving to a dirt road, next a road that looks as though its got wooden planks, then a wooden bridge, and finally we veer off to another narrow dirt road. All that's seen in this sequence are the roads and the rugged land surrounding them.

¥ 20:35:02:10- 20:35:10:15
Short but excellent driving POV first past a woman using a water pump in her front yard and next to a visceral image of children running towards their schoolhouse.

¥ 20:36:23:20- 20:36:31:18
Short but nice driving POV. We see out the top corner of the passenger's window which gives us a view of the beautiful desert we rapidly drive by as well as the interior of the car.

¥ 20:37:44:10- 20:38:16:10
Series of driving POV up hills/mountains and around hair pin turns. We drive by green hills, rocky desert areas, snowy pine trees, and gently rolling hills all the while coming dangerously close to the edge. Sometimes dizzying as we round the turns.

¥ 20:40:13:24- 20:40:29:25
Excellent pan of crowds at the 1939/40 New York World's Fair waiting to get inside of the General Motors building. As the camera pans the people in line (several of whom look at the camera), the film changes from black and white to Technicolor. A man waves at the camera as it continues to pan the area.

¥ 20:40:57:15- 20:41:10:10
More footage of lines going into the Futurama exhibit in the General Motors building. This time we view the area where the line wraps around several levels. As the camera pans the line, it is clear that the lines were intended to be part of the architecture of the building.

FUTURISM NEW YORK WORLD'S FAIR AUTOMOBILES TRANSPORTATION GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION EXPOSITIONS EXHIBITS SCIENCE PROGRESS World's Fairs (New York, 1939) Futurism Surrealism Time travel Models Highways Interchanges (highways) Highways (futuristic) Automobiles Transportation Horses Wagons (horse-drawn) Wagons (covered) Schools (rural) Schoolhouses Factories Industry Neon signs Signs (neon) Bridges Driving General Motors Corp. (sponsor) General Motors Corp. Futurama exhibit, New York World's Fair (1939) Infrastructure


Reviewer: tribtower - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - May 4, 2013
Subject: GM Futurama Designed by Norman Bel Geddes
Most popular show at the N.Y.World's Fair 1939-40.
Tops in presentation and drama. Individual chairs
with STEREO sound whisk the show-goer around a
concealed track which revealed the world of 1960
from various perspectives as if on board an
aircraft.Constant narration and a musical soundtrack played on the Hammond NOVACHORD the
first musical synthesizer. The instrument was
powered by vacuum tubes. Truly futuramic! Disney
learned about mounting shows at Disneyland from this highly original effort.
Reviewer: moltke - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - May 15, 2012
Subject: Great stuff ...
Pretty impressive how closely they have the highway system predicted, but I suppose it was in large part GM or auto execs who they went to to design them in the 50's. Fell pretty short on the cities part though, and just seems like society and civilization have lost the drive to improve or update cities and such anymore. Everyone is either content or bankrupt to make the changes. After the space race was over in 69, seems that national projects and improvements just gave way to individual gadgets and technology.
Reviewer: Zplomb - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - August 23, 2009
Subject: run for your lives, it's THE FUTURE
Odd little film with really creepy soundtrack. Astoundingly naive.
Reviewer: marianne333 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - April 7, 2007
Subject: wow!!
I thoroughly loved this film. Elevated sidewalks, well thats happened..and the whole prerequisite to the expressways we have now ..
AutoGyros and a Dirigible parked in liquid to make it 'turn easier' thats a hoot.
Of course, no one thought about global warming, but in this film its eerie to hear the announcer talk about how everyone is bathed in sunshine..the music is an odd twilight zone kind of organ playing...well worth seeing.
Reviewer: Nelvana 1 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - September 29, 2006
Subject: Image vs. Reality
It's wonderful to see GM's 'optimism' about the future in this heady little film. However, a lot of what's said is simply re-stating many of the flightier and more untested new theories of urban development. No surprise, much of it revolves around the promotion of bigger and better freeways, for the pleasure of - you guessed it - the automotive industry.

Once GM and their pals finally convinced the U.S. government to implement various elements of the film in its country-wide development strategy (like giving contractors massive swaths of building land,) the nation had to deal with the aftermath - that is, people wasting oceans of gas to get to work every day, suburban detatchment, pollution - none of which fit into the film's view of 1960 (or later.)

The film is as much cautionary tale as it is an optimistic outlook. Let's recognize what more needs to be done to arrive at a vision of the future which can truly 'work' and not just look good in little models (however beautifully they've been designed.)
Reviewer: bread - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - September 27, 2006
Subject: Enjoyable!
A very enjoyable film. I really liked the technicolor scenes (I LOVE technicolor), and liked the futuristic city. The fitst half also has some great footage of the early 40's. Thanks Mr Prelinger.
Reviewer: XDelusion - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - June 25, 2006
Subject: How quickly we forget
Again, it is amazing how quickly people forget what we have destroyed in order that we may live on state wages within our little white cubicals, safe from all harm...

...or are we?

The FED owns us!
Reviewer: Rick Prelinger - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - October 15, 2005
Subject: some facts
The narrator is Vincent Pelletier, whose voice is heard on "A Report to Home Builders" and the 1941 version "Magic in the Air," and the music in the background during the Futurama tour is played on the Theremin.

A companion film to "To New Horizons" would be "On To Jupiter," another GM-sponsored film on the future that was actually played at the fair.

I don't know why it's still necessary to add a star rating when a person wants to add an annotation to the database (what am I rating?), but I have to, so here goes:
Reviewer: Spuzz - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - July 23, 2005
Subject: Nice to see Bela Lugosi was still gainfully employed.
ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂTo New HorizonsÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ documents the changes that America went through as she was born, but mostly goes on about what to expect in the future. This is all swell and good, but what I canÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂt understand, is where on earth they got the narrator from. He sounds exactly like Bela Lugosi in his ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂPull The Strings!ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ performance in ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂGlen Or GlendaÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ. Oh. They also borrowed the organist from A Visit From Santa to increase our enjoyment.

Anyways, the city of the future is what you need to pay attention to here. 8 lane highways! Ramps that will take you god knows where. IÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂm still at a loss to wonder what on earth you need to do if you want to change lanes. Yikes!
Reviewer: David Tallent - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - June 14, 2005
Subject: Ironic and Sad
I find it ironic that this optimistic film proclaiming the dawn of a new era was debuted at a time when the world was starting a war that would devastate continents, kill millions, attempt to annihilate a race, and start a cold war that would last for decades. It's sad, too, in that--over 65 years later, we still have not realized the dreams of the beautiful cities we are shown here. (of course, I still don't have a flying car, either!)
Reviewer: MediaWhore - favoritefavorite - June 8, 2004
Subject: Highway to HELL
Pave America and all will be well. Somewhat interesting from the historical aspect (but then again arent all of these old films?). The creepy organ music in this film got to be to much and now my ears are bleeding!!
Reviewer: ridetheory - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - April 11, 2004
Subject: A Great Industrial Film
Norman Bel Geddes' view of the future of American roads. The first half is dull almost beyond belief, the second half, showing the Futurama ride at the 1939 fair is jaw droppingly beautiful.

Some other related films:

More footage of the Futurama can be found in the amateur films from the Medicus collection:

For a peek at a few scenes from the 1964 World's Fair version, "Futurama II", see the second part of "To the Fair":

And "Your Name Here" is almost a direct parody of the first half of "To New Horizons."
Reviewer: EWKEANE - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - February 28, 2003
Subject: The most blatant masonic reference I have ever seen!
Cool Prop movie, good stuff. Future looks cool, kinda like montreal or chicago. The last immage at the end? Oh brother, if this isnt ancient religious symbolism, I dont know what is!
Reviewer: Christine Hennig - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - December 12, 2002
Subject: To New Horizons
The 1939 New York World's Fair is a source of endless fascination for me. So I was delighted to find this film made for the GM Futurama in the archiveÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂit's the next best thing to a time machine. The Futurama was the most memorable exhibit at the fairÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂit contained a huge miniature replica of a "typical" city of 1960. This film documents that exhibit and the boundless optimism behind it. What's amazing is that it really wasn't that far off the mark, especially in the case of the superhighways, which look a lot like modern Interstate highways. And it's just a really fun piece of ephemera, from the cheesy organ soundtrack, to the assertion that "we are all interested in the future, for that is where we will be spending the rest of our lives"ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂso that's where Criswell got that phrase!
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: *****. Also available on Lifestyles USA, Vol. 1.
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